Xinxin Zhang, a masters degree candidate at New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, has been selected by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to participate in a summer internship program designed to provide real-world experience to students interested in careers in motion picture computer graphics, technology, and research.
This summer, Zhang is interning at Pixar Animation Studios, the creative force behind the Toy Story and Cars films, Ratatouille, Finding Nemo, Up, and The Incredibles, among other productions.
Zhang has been conducting ground-breaking research in graphics simulation of physical systems, and, in particular, computational fluid simulation.
“Using simulation technology to generate realistic pictures of explosions can make for more compelling visual effects,” explained Zhang.
Zhang is currently exploring how to enhance computer-generated applications through the "immersed boundary method." This approach, formulated by Courant Professor Charles Peskin, simulates mechanical systems in which elastic structures interact with fluid flows.
In animation, filmmakers aim to make characters “soft” or “elastic” in order offer more realistic portrayals of flowing hair, facial movement, or rumpled clothing. This is especially difficult when they seek to have characters interact with their environment—for example, showing the impact of a strong wind on characters’ faces and clothes. Zhang hopes to improve current simulation technology, which has generally been unable to replicate these attributes, by adopting the principles of the immersed boundary method.
For a demo of Zhang’s work, click here.